Rassie Erasmus is confident that Elton Jantjies has the character to bounce back from a ‘challenging’ outing against England on Saturday, writes CRAIG LEWIS in Cape Town.
In making five changes to the Boks’ starting lineup for the series-ending clash against England, Erasmus said he wanted to learn more about different players in pressure situations.
With this in mind, there was always set to be a big focus on Jantjies, who was handed the all-important No 10 jersey following two accomplished performances from first-choice flyhalf Handré Pollard at the start of the series.
However, in wet-weather conditions at Newlands, Jantjies never looked particularly comfortable from the moment he missed a relatively regulation penalty kick in the fifth minute, with some of his handling, decision-making and out-of-hand kicking leaving a lot to be desired.
The struggles endured by the 27-year-old led to merciless jeers from the Newlands crowd, which turned to cheers when he was replaced just before the hour mark.
Erasmus was honest in his assessment of Jantjies’ performance, but also insisted that both he and the team as a whole had to accept certain responsibilities after the Boks fell to a 25-10 defeat.
‘I’ve always said that I don’t like to take my flyhalf off when he’s making decisions, good or bad, and then afterwards we can judge things properly and go and fix what’s necessary. This time, I could see the pressure was piling up on Elton in the wet, and playing behind a pack that was not dominating. Elton is a grown man, so he understands, and I wanted to relieve the pressure on him and hopefully still go on to win the match.’
Erasmus insisted that while they’d needed to take some gambles in selection for the Newlands match, he reiterated that there was a long-term plan in mind for the entire squad, and certainly with players such as Jantjies.
‘I must look at myself more than Elton, and maybe look at the way we managed things this week and integrated players. We had to make some brave calls, and sometimes players will get singled out, or put in positions where they have to sink or swim.
‘Others might say it was a case of last-chance saloon [for a player like Jantjies], but we have longer-term thinking in mind. Today, we learned a few things, and not just about him, but how to adapt to the sort of conditions we faced. At the end of the day, Elton is a strong character and now he’s got a couple of Super Rugby games to get his confidence back.’
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